Broward’s coronavirus positivity rises to ‘unacceptable’ level

“We don’t want to shut down,” Broward County Vice Mayor Steve Geller said. “But if our orders are not being followed, if the numbers continue to look like this, they’re giving us no choice.” Geller said the cities within the county need to issue more citations.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Broward County had been seeing its rate of positive COVID-19 test results go down, but that changed for tests processed Sunday, with 17.6% of new samples coming back positive. It’s the highest percentage for the county since 22.5% were positive on July 8.

The spike also comes as Broward surpassed 40,000 coronavirus cases and 512 deaths in the latest numbers released Monday by the state health department.

Broward’s cases increased by 1,695 to 40,976 in the course of a day, and 19 new deaths as a result of COVID-19 brought the county’s toll to 512 since the start of the outbreak.

“People are getting sick because they are not following the orders,” Broward vice mayor Steve Geller said. “Yesterday, 17.6% positivity rating — that’s way unacceptable. People are getting sick. Our intensive-care beds are filling up. Our hospital beds are filling up.”

Geller said one of the issues is that cities within the county aren’t enforcing the county’s rules. He pointed out that of 4,803 complaints, only 65 citations have been issued.

“We agreed to pay the cities for their code enforcement,” Geller said. “Well, we’re paying them and they’re not doing the investigations.”

So what’s next?

“We have to watch the data, look at the science, look at where we are with hospitalizations and look at how people are complying, and then we make a decision from there,” Mayor Dale Holness said.

County leaders are trying to figure out why the COVID-19 positivity rate has started to rise again. Mayor Dale Holness says "we have to watch the data, look at the science" before deciding the next steps to slow the spread.

Broward on Friday announced an 11 p.m. nightly curfew among a slew of new rules intended to slow the spread of the virus. The Broward Sheriff’s Office also committed more attention to shutting down large, illegal house parties.

“The curfew is critical,” Holness said. “What we are finding is the parties are happening overnight and that’s a big place where the spread is.”

Broward officials have now added a dashboard to track progress — to figure out what’s working and what’s not.

The bottom line, though, is that a shutdown is in the cards if the numbers don’t improve.

“We don’t want to shut down,” Geller said. “But if our orders are not being followed, if the numbers continue to look like this, they’re giving us no choice.”

More testing in Broward

The Florida Department of Health and the Broward County Health Department will ramp up COVID-19 testing in Broward by increasing the use of county park locations.

A new drive-through testing site will open in Sunrise’s Markham Park on Tuesday morning. It will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

More county parks will be used to administer tests, with those locations to be announced in the coming days in an effort to meet the need of the increasing numbers.

C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines has already been used as a testing location in coordination with Memorial Regional Hospital.

Positivity rates

As Broward’s own dashboard shows, the county’s positivity rate for the past week was over 15%.

Below is a look at how Broward’s positivity rate has trended over recent days, according to state data. (This percentage is the number of people who test positive for the first time divided by all the people tested that day, excluding people who have previously tested positive.)

  • 7/8 – 22.5%
  • 7/9 – 14.9%
  • 7/10 – 15.8%
  • 7/11 – 13.4%
  • 7/12 – 13.7%
  • 7/13 – 16.0%
  • 7/14 – 14.7%
  • 7/15 – 16.5%
  • 7/16 – 14.2%
  • 7/17 – 13.6%
  • 7/18 – 12.7%
  • 7/19 – 17.6%

About the Authors:

Andrew Perez is a South Florida native who joined the Local 10 News team in May 2014.